Avoiding Holiday Stress and Depression

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Holidays can be meaningful and memorable, or they can be a time of stress and depression. Take heed of these tips for the holiday season in order to ensure that this is a special and rewarding time for you and the ones you love.

Holidays can be a particularly stressful time. For some, the season is an occasion for the blues or possibly even a depression to set in. Some holiday stress is inevitable, but by taking some simple precautions, you can manage that stress more effectively and stave off severe emotional woes. And with a little luck, you might even make the season a more memorable and enjoyable time.

Here are some tips:

Connect and Share
Holidays are meant for family and friends. But for some, distance, time, estrangement, infirmity, or other circumstances make it difficult to make these intimate connections. Still, volunteering time at charitable and civic organizations, or making connections with church groups and other community organizations can open the door to the connecting, giving, and sharing that make the holidays such a special and rewarding time.
Know and Set Your Limits
You can’t say “yes” to every invitation or accommodate everyone’s wishes. Trying to do so will only engender a degree of stress that can put a real damper on the holiday spirit. So reflect carefully on what you reasonably can or cannot do. Most of your friends and acquaintances are in the same boat. They’ll understand if you can’t meet every obligation. Plan as much as you can in advance. Keep to your budgetary limits, also. Overspending only adds to holiday stress. Establish a spending limit before you shop and resist unnecessary purchases. Real friends and happiness can’t be bought. So keep a tight rein on senseless spending.
Put Your Health First
Holiday time can be used as an excuse to abandon all caution and to overindulge. This can be a sign of an underlying unhappiness, but the ‘aftermath’ of any indiscretion can only make matters worse. So be sure to exercise moderation in what you eat and drink. Don’t overload on candies and sweets. Take some time out from the hustle-bustle to refresh and renew yourself. Be sure to get adequate rest as well as exercise. And above all, remember that having fun doesn’t have to mean abandoning good sense and judgment.
Keep Expectations Reasonable
Some folks really set themselves up for tremendous disappointment when other people or circumstances fail to meet their expectations. Holidays are a stressful time for everyone. Keep that in mind. And as time passes and families grow, some changes are inevitable. Do your best to be understanding. While traditions are important, so is flexibility, especially in the midst of difficult or changing circumstances. So don’t allow yourself to become too worked up over a last minute change of plans or someone’s failure to show up. Don’t exacerbate trivial family conflicts. Give a little. You’ll get a lot more.
As Trite as it Sounds, Remember the Holiday Spirit
Keep in mind what all the fuss is really supposed to be about. Some folks get so wrapped up in the things they feel they have to do that they forget to savor the best parts of the experience. This is a time for giving and sharing. Everything else takes a back seat. Keeping the spirit of the times in the forefront of our minds can be a challenge at times, but doing so can make the difference between a holiday of stress and one of fond remembrance.
If You Need Help, Don’t be Afraid to Seek It
Try as you might to cope, sometimes things can seem overwhelming. When things become unmanageable it doesn’t help to fault yourself or to engage in denial. Accept the realities of the situation and don’t be ashamed to seek out professional assistance if necessary. Don’t wait until all your energy is drained and hope is gone. Pay attention to your body’s natural stress indicators and get some help before a crisis develops.

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Holidays can be meaningful, memorable, and fun-filled occasions. And you can help ensure that by honoring the traditions that mean the most to you by spending quality time with the ones you love, by placing having fun over meeting obligations, by taking the precautions listed above, and most of all by giving of yourself and sharing with others. Remember all of the great and important reasons for the season and spread the cheer wherever you go.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Pat Orner Oliver on .

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